Hearing Health Blog

Man touching ear in response to crackling noises in his ear.

Do you ever hear sounds that seem to come from nowhere, like buzzing, thumping, or crackling? Possibly, if you wear hearing aids, they need to be fitted or require adjustment. But if you don’t wear hearing aids the sounds are coming from inside your ear. But don’t stress. Even though we usually think of our ears with respect to what they look like on the outside, there’s a lot more than meets the eye. Here are some of the more common noises you might hear in your ears, and what they could indicate is going on. You should talk with a hearing specialist if any of these are lessening your quality of life or are irritating and persistent, even though the majority are brief and harmless.

Crackling or Popping

When the pressure in your ears changes, whether it’s from altitude, going underwater or simply yawning, you could hear crackling or popping noises. The eustachian tube, a very small part of your ear, is where these sounds originate. When the mucus-lined passageway opens to allow air and fluid to pass, these crackling sounds are produced. It’s an automatic process, but sometimes, like if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, the passageway can literally get gummed up. In severe cases, when decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t help, a blockage can require surgical intervention. If you’re experiencing lasting ear pain or pressure, you should probably see a specialist.

Ringing or Buzzing is it Tinnitus?

Once again, if you use hearing aids, you may hear these types of sounds if they aren’t sitting correctly within your ears, the volume is too loud, or your batteries are running low. If you aren’t using hearing aids, earwax might be your problem. It seems logical that too much wax could make it difficult to hear, and cause itchiness or possibly infections, but how could it make a sound? The buzzing or ringing is caused when the wax is pressing against the eardrum and suppressing its movement. Thankfully, it’s easily solved: You can get the extra wax professionally removed. (Don’t try to do this yourself!) Tinnitus is the term for prolonged ringing or buzzing. There are a few types of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that indicates something else is taking place with your health. While it could be as straightforward as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also related to conditions such as anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and dealing with the root health problem can help relieve tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s not so common, and if you can hear it, you’re the actually the one making the noises to happen! Do you know that rumble you can hear sometimes when you take a really big yawn? There are tiny muscles in the ear that contract in order to decrease the internal volume of certain natural actions such as your own voice or yawning or chewing, It’s the tightening of these muscles in response to these natural noises that we hear as rumbling. Activities, such as yawning and chewing, are so close to your ears that although they are not very loud, they can still be damaging to your hearing. (And since you can’t stop speaking or chewing, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) It’s very unusual, but certain people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble at will.

Pulsing or Thumping

Your most likely not far from the truth if you sometimes think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. The ears have a few of the bodies largest veins running very close them, and if your heart rate’s high, whether from that big job interview or a hard workout, the sound of your pulse will be picked up by your ears. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and unlike other types of tinnitus, it’s one that not only you hear, if you go to a hearing professional, he or she will be able to hear it as well. While it’s absolutely normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, if it’s something you’re dealing with on a regular basis, it’s a practical move to see your physician. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is not a disease, it’s a symptom; there are most likely health concerns if it persists. Because your heart rate should return to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate comes back to normal.

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